Lutheran doctrinal books say:
He [God] wants to justify and accept within His grace, to be children and heirs of eternal life, all those who, by having true repentance, accept the right faith in Christ.
According to the Lutheran understanding, God wants to justify for eternal life all those who repent their sins, who will return and receive Christ with the right faith. By first reading, there is nothing startling here, but then focus turns on two words: right faith. True Lutherans believe, of course, Lutheran faith. The Lutheran faith is explained, among other things in their confessional books. Catholics, the largest Christian church, have their own defined doctrine of faith.
All religions have their own interpretations and teachings which they hold nails and teeth. Not everyone even agrees to discuss the doctrinal questions. It is common for all of them to define the true faith. If a member disagrees, the consequences may be dramatic; a member can be separated, he can be shunned, he can be denied services provided to members. He can even be denied the possibility of salvation, that is, he will be shown to Hell with Satan. The fathers of the church who decided this did not remember the command of God through Luk 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; set free, and you will be set free.
In the Middle-Ages the Catholic Inquisition persecuted the heretics, e.g. Cathars. Thousands of those who were claimed to be heretics were persecuted and killed. Not only the witches, but also the heretic Christians were burned. Not only by the Catholics, also later the Reformation supporters were guilty, and Luther recommended to his princes that they kill the rebellious peasants who had begun to interpret and preach the Scriptures themselves. According to the Bible, we must love even our enemies, and Christians who in some respects believe differently, are not our enemies at all. This seemed Luther to have forgotten.
So what is the right faith? I would say that it is the faith of Christ, which the apostles have proclaimed inspired by God and Jesus in the first century. The original texts have not survived, but from lots of texts close to them have been able to reconstruct the New Testament, which is very similar to the original. The problem is in translating and interpreting the text. I have written about this in an article, which in the light of the examples I try to shed light on translation and interpretation problems. The Bible turns out to be more difficult, the deeper you delve in it. Totally unambiguous and commonly accepted interpretation does not exist at all! When our Lord God knows all things beforehand, He must have also seen the jumble of interpretations. Why did He not put a clear statement in the mouth of his prophets? Perhaps God wanted us to strive in order to find the truth.
But the key doctrines of salvation are clear. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he who believes in him and calls for his name will be saved. There are many sentences of which the interpretation is clear. God also expects those who seek salvation love the truth and strive to make it clear by studying the Bible. It has not always been possible. Bibles in English began to come out of the print shop only about five hundred years ago. Today, it is possible to study the Bible in the most varied ways on the Internet. Small is the crowd that does this. Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen. – this is how it is. Jesus also encouraged believers to strive for achieving salvation: Luk 13:24 Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in, and will not be able.
In my writings, I do not assert that what I write is the absolute truth. Make yourself known as the Bereans who did not believe the apostle Paul, but wanted to make sure the Bible was true was what Paul had spoken. Find out yourselves as the Bereans did; they wanted to see in their own eyes if the Bible confirmed what apostle Paul had told.
Study the Bible and make up your own mind. The most important thing is that you have a love of the truth. Jhn 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Mat 7:7 Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you.
Someone has aptly said that God saves sinners – not Saints. Salvation belongs to everyone who only asks for it. I have long wondered whether it is easy or difficult to reach salvation. On the basis of some Biblical passages, it seems easy and simple, and on the other hand, there are many instructions and direct orders in the Bible that the believer must follow in order to be saved. The Bible also says that God has given faith to a different amount for each person in his discretion. When this is the case, you might think that salvation is easy for some and for those with little faith – it is more difficult. Maybe it is as I have in the next article “Two kind of salvation” written: the one who has received from God a lot of faith and he with the power of faith makes a lot of the deeds for the kingdom of God, He will be saved in the first resurrection and will participate in leadership positions in the kingdom. Those who have less faith will receive their salvation in the last judgment.
The judgment starts with the house of God. 1 Pet 4: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God. If it begins first with us, what will happen to those who don’t obey the gospel of God? – Peter refers not only to apostles but also to all teachers of God’s word. James says: 3:1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
The portion of teachers is, therefore, to be weighed first and with a more accurate scale. What does it mean that the people of God’s house will be judged first? They are part of the first resurrection. They may receive eternal life and are allowed to follow Christ and rule with Him for a thousand years. In particular, Paul warns teachers to be accurate in teaching the message of the gospel. In Galatians, he says with great emphasis: Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that person be condemned! What we have told you in the past I am now telling you again: If anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that person be cursed! It is not at all insignificant what kind of gospel is proclaimed in the church. Have the church’s priests considered what kind of teaching they are proclaiming? If the parishioners were asked what they think is the key message of the gospel, the answers would probably be divided between several alternatives. Even then do the priests agree on the central message of the gospel? Do they even know what was the most important task of Jesus on earth?
What does it mean that God has given us a different amount of faith?
The fact that God has given each one his own amount of faith is certainly of some purpose. Otherwise, God would have given the same amount equal to all, and the starting points would be the same for all. We also know that God has already before the beginning of time chosen people for His own purposes and later called them. Even though God has given some people a better starting point, God wants everyone to be saved: 1 Tim 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. – Different amount of faith can appear in different ways in a person’s life, for example, a person who has got a lot of faith dedicates his life to Bible studies and dissemination of news of the kingdom. The person with less faith has got his everyday things and only occasionally goes to church. Both can be just as good to God and both can be saved; first mentioned perhaps in part in the first resurrection and the other only in the last resurrection.
Certain Catholic synods decisions have required members of the Church to believe in a decision or otherwise be damned. Many people have been kept obedient with the fear of Hell. By denying lay brothers to explain and preach God’s word, and by forbidding until the 16th century the translation of the Bible into the people’s own language, the church monopolized teaching of religion for the priests’ exclusive rights. Luther also had his own blind spot on this issue.
In modern times, one can freely decide whether or not to believe. In the world there are thousands and again thousands of different churches denominations and different interpretations of the Bible. How can a man know if he is properly taught by his church? All the walks of religion cannot be right. What then happens to a man who believes wrong? Many are anxious about this and stick to the doctrines of their church, fearing what will happen to them if they leave their church.
I do not believe that in the final judgment anyone will be transferred to Jesus’ left side simply because he has mistaken in a certain religious question. Even in an important issue such as the divinity of Jesus or the God being triune, the believer may be mistaken. However, man must have “love for truth to be saved”. It is not a matter of man to pronounce another condemnation of false beliefs: Luk 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”